Saturday, November 19, 2016

Texture:The Autumn Prairie

The first flakes of snow blew through this morning. It's been a couple of days of high winds heralding the end of autumn and the arrival of winter. I've been soaking in the textures of the prairie this November. The dried leaves, flowers, and seedheads have left a ghost of the plant, often to stunning results.

Silphium terebinthinaceum, prairie dock
Prairie dock has dried into huge deep brown handkerchiefs curled into fantastic shapes. Their sandpapery leaves now showcase their large pores and elegant veins. They rattle in the wind like a clutch of gossiping ladies.

Silphium perfoliatium, cup plant
Cup plant's daisy flowers have dried into pale ghosts of their golden glory. It's sturdy leaves still wrap around the beefy stems, only more fragile and melancholy.
Silphium laciniatum, compass plant

Like frozen dancers, the leaves of compass plant twist in impossible contortions. They are woven through the grasses, stealthy in their pavanes. These stiff leaves and sturdy stems are unbending in the relentless winds. They clatter and cackle with abandon, not caring who hears them.

Goldenrod in full fluff
In contrast, goldenrod's fluffy poofs of faded flowers and fuzzy seedheads dot the ocean of grass and dip with the breeze. They are holding their seeds tight, still, unwilling to release them to the chances of weather and storm. Tawny cotton candy, their bounce adds buoyancy to the prairie.
Asclepias syriaca, common milkweed

The monarchs have fled to the balmy air of Mexico and the milkweed releases its bounty to the breeze. I have always been fascinated by the many textures of milkweed pods. The silky hairs of the seeds call out to be stroked. Ice and snow cling dramatically to the nubby pods. This milkweed feels abandoned to its fate now that the seeds have dispersed.

Like this bit of seed and down, I am caught. Captured by the textured of the prairie, I am drawn to reflect on how these living breathing plants have become elegant skeletons. The birds still descend upon their seeds. The rabbits hide in their fronds and muskrats harvest them for homes. But for now, they are arrested, halted, frozen. Their small sculptures give a subtle punctuation to the landscape. Their bare leaves and branches await the lacy limn of frost and snow.